Helping students with tomorrow’s work-related skills.
Joshua Brooks has a story different to most on this podcast and it is one well worth listening to.
Josh left school at age 15 to start a CodeSpace, a STEM and digital creative skill based holiday program for primary school students.
Joshua chats about many topics STEM-related and shares why we need to be teaching coding and other digital creative skills in our classroom.
This is a really interesting chat, which I know you’ll love.
You can reach out to Joshua here:
Read the full transcript
Note, 100% accuracy is not guaranteed with transcripts, but gee we try.
Yeah, that’s correct. I found that it was my resources were better used outside of school. The school that I was attending was really quite being very restrictive with what they’d let me do. And so I felt that my time, which is my most precious, most precious asset was better used on building an education startup.
Yeah. And at at the time, you’d left school, you’d already started a business, you were saying,
Yeah, so I’d had a couple startups as you do. Like, I was one of those children who, when I was quite young, I would go when you go to lemonade stand, or whatever, and I try to, you know, sell stuff all the time. So I’ve been doing it for quite a long time in in some extent, to another. But my current sort of main startup, which is code space, started that when I was 15, which was about halfway through your 10. So that was what I was running at the time.
Yeah, that’s, that’s really that’s really impressive. And for the teachers listening at home, give us a little bit of an intro to what code spaces because I think it’s absolutely awesome.
Yeah, so what code spaces is we provide extracurricular holiday programs for children. So normally, during the school holidays, kids will go to vacation care, because their parents after work, and they’ll go to the zoo, or do arts and crafts or or you know, something along those lines. But what we do is we provide parents and kids with a somewhat of a better option for vacation care. And what we do is we teach children digital creative skills. So digital creative skills are things like coding, game design, robotics, engineering, stuff like that. And we teach in a really, really fun and non threatening way. So we’re just introducing children to those STEM subjects
while at a young age. So stop, yes, like seven year olds and up and we just want a programs for them,
right? And do you get a fit, you’ll be getting a fair aid, like a fair age gap in that as well. So he started at age seven, what age do the sort of what age do so with an intake? Is it more primary school based students? Do you do high school as well?
Are we focus on primary school students at the moment? So the age ranges seven to 13, which basically covers are great one to grade six students, generally speaking,
Yeah, perfect. And what brought that around, because you started out at 15. And that’s a pretty big move to make as a 15 year old, where did you see the, the gap for coding in schools and coding, as, you know, teaching it to young people?
Well, I guess the moment you know, there’s a lot of time with, when you have starting a company, or a side hustle or whatever, there’s like one of those moments where you just know that, like, you need to do this. And for me, that moment, was actually in me sitting in class. So I was in your 10, I was sitting in an ICT class,
and I was talking with some friends, and we were all quite frustrated over what we’re being taught. And of course, everything’s taught differently, you know, depending on where it is. But at my school, this was the top available sort of information technology course. And, and we were being taught HTML and CSS, which is fairly basic, by someone by the teacher who didn’t know HTML, CSS, and, and me and my friends who are quite tech savvy. We were like Josh users, now the company, you could do this battle, and I was like, Okay, I will do that. And I kind of what I wanted to do. And even though I don’t work with high school students, what I wanted to do is I wanted to introduce children in the way that I wish that I would have been introduced to coding and all these digital creative skills when I was younger. So I went back, and I did that as if I was, and I basically, you know, let’s imagine, you know, if I was, if I look back to, you know, when I was seven years old, would I want to be taught coding and stuff like that? That’s what I did
well, and so obviously, there is not a set curriculum, but something close to it, teaching it to the young people and to students had, did you go about writing that yourself? Did you find people like other teachers that were in the same sort of space that you’re in? or How did you come across? You know, it’s one thing to know, our men, I wish I knew this when I was eight. But it’s another thing to write the curriculum curriculum to put that message across, how did you how did you go about doing that?
Yeah, so what we do is, we it’s quite a large collaboration. So I am the main
I’m like, the final and his house. So I will get all of the content. And I basically decide what goes in the lesson plans and what doesn’t. But in terms of information, we do a great deal of just, you know, internet research and stuff like that over, you know, what, how we want to teach stuff. So, as you probably many teachers know, but a lot of kids are like, addicted roadblocks. So what we did is we went and we research roadblocks because I had no idea what roadblocks was, and then, oh, we can actually code with this. And then what I did is I did a bunch of research on, you know, how can we code with roadblocks and then what I did is I consulted with our teachers that we already have. So, you know, team of educators who go deliver the content, some of them are uni students, some of them are software engineers, some of them are actual teachers, and I basically have a really good network, which I can go to and go, okay, hey, I want to do this, what do you guys think would be the best way to do this, because I teach the courses myself as well sometimes, but these guys are the experts in it. So I go talk to my team, I’ll go talk to teachers that I know in my community, and will kind of compile the best and I’m kind of final editor like the coolest most The easiest way to learn most non blessing fun way to learn a certain topic or a certain subjects. And that’s basically how we go about building that.
Yeah, that’s awesome. And how did you go about getting that out in the public once he’d started because obviously, you’ve got to make connections with schools, and you’ve got to make connections with and, and sell it the parents as well, because a lot of parents probably won’t see the benefit of coding and digital creative skills for their student for their children. And we’ll go into what those what those benefits are. But how did you originally get it to be in schools, it seems like a really big step.
Yeah, so we actually started not doing it through school. So we partner with a number of schools around Australia. Um, but we actually run quite a few camps as well, quite a few programs independently at, say, community halls. And so what we had to do is, especially as a new company, you have to go and you have to prove yourself. So what we did is we hired out like a local community hall, and then we started talking about it. But luckily, at the time, this there was, when we started off the company, there was quite a bit of a buzz around coding and all that already, which was quite important to us getting off the that you when you’re selling a product like this, you’d have to consider the different stakeholders involved. So you’ve got the school and the school wants, and a school wants to look good, and offer quality programs for the children who pretend the parents and leaves nothing to do with their kids. And they want something educational, and the kids want something fun for the most part. Of course, they they blow the most part the kids ones, like fun. So what we did is we will targets we will demonstrate the benefits of what we’re doing through something fun. So if you can sell a kid on, you know, same Minecraft modding, right? Because kids know what Minecraft is. If we teach them code in Minecraft, we’ve kind of tacked on
something really educational, and something that I already love, which makes a hell of a lot easier to sell than if we were just saying code. We say Minecraft coding. They’re like, Oh, I like Minecraft, then I’ll probably like Minecraft coding. And they do. And that’s kind of how we get people hooked on it. And then it’s more or less a snowball effect after that stage.
Yeah, and the you said it is it just snowballs from there. I’m guessing because once the school say that it’s working. And if the school can make a choice between I’m not gonna mention any of my name, but any of the other like, sort of before school after school care businesses, but they sort of play games and they might play, you know, play on the playground and do some arts and crafts and the basics or you there’s the other option, that is something that you can promote that the school takes part in, and that sort of, you know, coding camp on holidays, it’s almost a no brainer for the school.
Yeah, of course. And that’s what we’ve got, we’ve got our code base camps that the, the, the important thing to probably kind of realize know as well, is that we don’t actually replace vacation get programs, the law, the time will run alongside them, because what we do is because they do run,
we’re not eligible for government subsidies being a instructional class. So it can be a tad bit more expensive than normal vacation care, depending on numerous factors. So what we actually do is we a lot of time where there’s, you know, vacation care at the school, we also offer this is kind of an alternative. So it’s kind of the school do both from the parents can choose what they like to do. But based off our current success so far, I mean, we teach about 1000 students a year at this stage,
we, we’ve found that a lot of parents are like, I want my kids to live the kids like, I want to do my craft. And by combining that we’ve, we’ve had great success so far.
Yeah, that’s, that’s really cool. And did you get much pushback at all, like he said, most parents and this the kids are into it in regards to the fact you’re using Minecraft and
applications of students are familiar with to try and sell it for lack of a better term. But did you find much pushback from you know, people in education or some parents when you started because I even just Junior age, because I don’t think we mentioned it, but you’re all you’re 18 years old as well. So did you find much pushback from other age related or, you know, content related or just anything in general,
I guess you do, I mean, with anything going to have some degree of pushback there wasn’t, there wasn’t heats in terms of what we’re actually take shame. Of course, you’ve got the argument that kids shouldn’t be spending so much time on computers. And that’s something that’s quite important black screen time. And it’s something that’s very important in a lot of parents minds, a lot of, you know, teachers and stuff like that. But what we basically did to, to, I guess, remove that fear from people is we taught them about the different types of screen time. So there’s, there’s, there’s screen time where you’re just consuming, you’re just consuming which is, you know, say watching videos, like watching YouTube videos, or playing games, you’re just consuming something. And then you’ve got creative screen time and creative screen time is when you’re coding you’re creating, you’re building stuff like that. And by making that distinction, because I mean, I guess it’s a matter of everything in moderation. But
creative screen time is very, very productive was consuming screen time is not going to be as productive. And by making that distinction, we, that helps a lot there. But in terms of, say, my age,
I generally don’t tell people. Um, it’s kind of up until recently, like, especially when you’re like a 1516 year old child, you don’t go on advertising. That fact I couldn’t. What, what I realized is that I can actually teach the courses until recently, I couldn’t actually teach the courses myself, because I’m not legally responsible enough to
to actually teach a class. I don’t have like, yeah, that’s the stages. And I and I met ball’s, but I can actually go to DOS, and I can go and assist. But like, I can’t leave the class, because I’m not responsible for maintaining that is infuriating.
But, you know, it’s, it’s all good, too, because then you’re forced, you know, go hire other people find the best people for the job, and train them up, make sure everything and that creates more scalable organization. But for the most part, I just don’t tell people and I get other people to go around it most communication with is done remotely. So by email, phone, and I sound quite old on the phone. And, and for any in person communication, I can dress up and look older, or sometimes I’ll just hire other people to pretend to me May.
So what I’ll do is if we have to go around and, and drop off flyers or something like that, I’ll say, well, they don’t usually pertain to me. But now now, you know, be
they won’t say, Yeah,
Yeah, Yeah, exactly. And they’ll be like, Oh, I’m here to, you know, drop off the flyers or whatever, the school and you know, that that part of the organization, but they just never seen me in person. And I just hire people who are all going off to go and do these things. But of course, on a safety aspect, you know, when I’m going when we teachers and all that we’re very strict on safety standards and all that, of course, you know, everyone’s got worked with children’s check, we run our teachers through a rigorous sort of, you know, risk management and safety procedures.
But it’s, you know, something times, you do have to hide the fact that you are young, because otherwise, people just don’t take you seriously, for the most part.
Yeah, and I know what you mean by that. And while a lot of, you know, obviously, the teachers who are listening to this and starting their own business aren’t a dangerous by like, sharing possibility of being qualified teachers,
a lot of teachers I know, and a lot of people who are doing part time businesses as well, at the start, it’s it’s a barrier to get over is the fact that you may not think that you’re going to be taken seriously because you do your business, you know, on the side with your either full time job, or there’s some something holding you back. And something that’s in your in the back of your mind can get you to think that people won’t take you or your business seriously. And I know a lot of teachers who are looking to start a business. But yeah, they they’re scared that they’re not going to be taken seriously, because it’s not their full time job. So it’s really, it’s really great that you shared just the struggles that you’ll have it all you had with that as well. And just little ways around it.
Yeah, definitely. And, like, my advice for, you know, teachers in that position would be like, I guess it depends on what you’re doing that you could, you could definitely utilize it as a strength at times, depending on if you’re doing something education related. And being a teacher is, of course, for the most part going to be a strength in that regard. Because, you know, I’m a qualified teacher, you know, I can go do stuff, I’m in the education space. But even if you’re not like most communication with most business stuff is done all remotely, all you have to do is change your LinkedIn profile, to say, whatever your new your, your side hustle, or whatever it is, and just pretend to do that full time. Because a lot of the time, you can sort of put up, you know, these online
images, and no one what I found is generally, as long as you can deliver what you say that you can deliver, no one really has the most part, they just want you to do a great job. And if you do that, that might be happy.
Yeah, that’s it, I just sort of embrace what you’re doing as well. And I find that I was even working with some students doing this entrepreneurial project earlier this year. And they were too scared to sort of email people and, you know, we’re only 14 what, they’re not really going to take it seriously. And you’ve kind of got to sort of tell them that the fact that in that case, they’re 14, doing something is way more impressive than if I’m emailing and reaching out to them at you know, 29, the fact that you have 14, and you’re doing this all by yourself is awesome, you know what I mean? And they were getting incredible responses just by being themselves. And I’ve taken that actually from that class and done it with what I’m doing with my content marketing in my writing, and some other teachers are doing with their businesses as well. And like you said, it’s a lot of the times we think of it as a negative, but once we put it out there, and we advertise it, the fact that we’re doing it is it’s more assets more natural, and that usually gets a better response.
Yeah, it’s, it’s, you’re exactly right. And, you know, what you just said, with the teachers, with the kids reaching out to people? Who are they reaching out to, out of curiosity.
So this was local, you know, local councils, local businesses, just little networking, things like that. Some different like Australia, and international makeup brands one group was doing and just reaching out and looking for just looking for networking, and looking for assistance.
Yeah, it’s amazing, like, what you can get when you actually ask for things, I think a lot of time where we’re far too afraid to actually ask for help, or for advice. But because so few people, so so many people are afraid and, and so few people actually willing to, to go for it, and actually asked that they don’t get many requests. And once they do, they’re like, that person has courage, you know, all help them out, especially when they’re like a 14 year old child,
I just thought I bought in because I’ve recently been experimenting with a similar thing myself. And I’ve realized that I can get, you know, meetings with, you know,
to talk about, you know, startups and whatever, with, you know, some of the top, you know, startup executives in in Australia or, you know, people high up in companies like, I know, like last year or something like that, I can easily quite get meetings with them. And the main reason is, because you asked, and it’s just amazing that what you can actually get where he was correct,
yeah, I know exactly what you mean. And so going back to that example, they were sort of that were nervous, and they were organizing a it was for charity, they were organizing a giveaway, and they were looking for products to, you know, help giveaway and they’re like, do you mean, people are just going to like, give us their products for free? Like if we asked, Well, you never know. And I was like differently. Like, if you do your homework on the company. And then you tell them that you’re 48, it’s going to be so much more impressive than somebody else doing it. And sure enough, like the response was in, you know, in the same lesson, basically, they sent the email and got the response and the responses, you know, oh, my God, that’s so awesome that you’re doing this at for Dane, I wish I was doing that sort of stuff. Like, take whatever, you need all of this. Like, you know, it was just and that was that was thrilled. And like, we like even like he was talking about before. And once that snowball starts rolling, you can gather momentum pretty quickly.
Yeah, exactly. Right. Exactly. Right.
Yeah. And I want to go more into what you’re doing now with code space, and just the importance that coding and digital creative skills have in the classroom, for starters. So if, if you’re at a if, you know, there’s lots of teachers listening to this, that might be looking to bring other coding or, you know, creative skills and digital creative skills into their classroom? How would you go about doing that, before we even do that? Like, why is it important to those that aren’t convinced?
Yes. So it’s so there’s quite a lot of talk about getting kids to code. Um, and I think a lot of it is the I probably gave them that talk on. But I think a lot of it is misconceived as we want every kid become a software developer, I teach children code, and among other things,
but it’s not because I wanted to teach them not because I want to tell them into a software developer, if they do great, like, I don’t mind, but the and we do need more good software developers. But
and the reason I call them digital creative skills as well, not just say coding is because what we want to do is when we teach kids, for example, how to code we’re not just teaching them how to code, we’re teaching them how to think when we teach a child how to build a video game, which is what we do in one of our classes, what we’re doing is we’re teaching them how a computer works, overall, we’re teaching them how logic works. And then we’re teaching them problem solving skills. So we’re teaching them, okay, you’ve got a problem, you have to try and figure out how to solve it, you can’t get upset, you can’t start crying, because it’s not working, you have to figure out why this isn’t working, and how you can work in and fix it. So what are you going to do, you’re going to talk to people next year, you’re going to start researching ways to solve the problem. And you gotta be, you know, asking for help, or that’s one thing, and then you’re going to think about it, and you’re going to solve and formulate a problem. And that’s just, that’s one example of what it does. because it teaches children how to think in essential in an essential way, it teaches them how computers work, and it teaches them that that critical thinking that is, is so crucial for any job in tomorrow’s workforce. I guess that’s one part of us, right? Because any job you can need those sort of collaborative problem solving, critical thinking skills, any job. And then the other side of it is a lot of parents, especially, they see their child, you know, three year old child, a seven year old child, become an iPad and start using us and, and the parents struggle with us, and they assume, oh, you know, my child’s really tech savvy. Um, but in actuality, in bed, they’re not anyone can use an iPad for the most part. And as soon as those kids go into, let’s say, they’ve just had like, normal normal, like laptop computer. And for some reason, like it’s running really slow, or it’s not working, or something like that. And most people will give up and they will arm you know, they’ll, they’ll need to go and get help from other people, they will get the computer and they don’t know how to work with it. And it’s so slow and so inefficient. And the Everyone needs just basic computer skills, which, which so few people actually do have these days, and that we’re not currently teaching children. So just like how to touch type, how to use, how to use a mouse, how to navigate efficiently, how you can best utilize technology for whatever task that you are currently performing. And that is what most students don’t know how to do. And the productivity gains individually for each person in the future workforce, as well as, I guess, collectively as a society would be massively enhanced if everyone knew how to properly utilize the even basic technology tools available to us. And students. And all companies are starting to acquire these sort of basic skills. And if students don’t have these skills on how to best utilize technology, they’re not going to be able to get jobs or when they do, they’re not gonna be very effective in them.
Yeah, I completely agree. And that’s, I couldn’t have said it any better myself, especially at the start when you were talking about the, the flow on effect of lonely how to solve problems and just resilience that comes through working with technology. And it’s so funny that, you know, you’ll hear some people say that, and there’s there’s definitely merit in there being too much screen time. And like you said, too much stream time as screen time as a consumer. And I guess that’s just there could be too much of anything. It’s just the phrase too much.
what I say though, in the classroom is those a lot of the students who are playing video games at their spare time they used to failing, they’re used to getting something wrong the first time and improving on at the second. And that in itself is such a skill to have, because not everyone has that not everyone has that? Oh, well, I, you know, I got it wrong the first time, but I kind of expect that. But if you’re playing a video game, that’s, you know, you’re not going to buy a you’re not going to buy a game expecting to get it perfect the first time or else you wouldn’t bother spending your money.
Yeah, no, you’re exactly right. And I think that’s probably something overlooked by a lot of people is there is actually evaluating solely playing video games. I mean, like, there’s probably more value and say, making them but there is tremendous value, and even just playing video games, depending on the game. And there’s numerous other factors. And of course, that can be too much. But there is a lot of benefits to even just interacting with these things, and learning how to problem solve. And like, you see, like kids like playing puzzle games and stuff that’s excellent for their, their cognitive, you know, developments, especially a young age, if you see like a seven year old playing with blocks game or even like Tetris that’s teaching them a lot, even though it just looks like they’re playing a game.
Yeah, definitely. And
going back to all the teachers that are listening to this and might be wanting to bring in some digital creative skills into their classroom, what are some what are some steps for, you know, your average primary school or high school teacher that are looking to bring some of these elements that you’re talking about, and some of those skills to tomorrow’s workforce? How do we help bring those into today’s classroom?
Yeah, so I guess there’s, it’s almost like a Paradox of Choice kind of question. Because you’ve got so many different ways to bring it in, it just sort of depends how
they is, I guess, probably the
best way to do it, I recommend
is, you really have to learn yourself first, I would strongly recommend that teachers go get, you know, they can even just go study online, like go to say, a Code Academy or something like that, it’s free on courses, and get teachers to learn these skills first, and because, you know, to teach something, you have to be a provider. And what I got from a lot of my teachers, at least being, you know, in my experience when I was in primary school, is that I used to help them out with that deck.
And if they don’t have that technical knowledge, they’re not going to get to teach it very effectively. So that will probably be step one, like, you’d have to go learn stuff like that. But there’s so many online resources, even if you just like Google, like, learn to code online, or
something like that, you can, you can start developing the thing when you start researching. And it’s amazing what you can just get from the internet.
But there are also a number of educational tools. I mean, like, you’d also call us like, we do that sort of thing. But the,
but there are a number of also tools. So like, even things like Lego robotics, that’s a very common tool that is amazingly educational, something like Lego robotics, or robotics along those sort of lines. And there are a number of like, online coding games and stuff, which you can introduce your students very easily. Um, and I think it’s a model because it’s really a way of thinking,
you’d have to think in a way that like, Okay, I’m going to get the most out of the technology that surrounds me, and you kind of have to learn how to best utilize that technology before you pass it on to students. Um, and then, you know, you also have to have, you also have to actually have the tech in your classroom, sorry, but I mean, most schools these days from at least my experience to have your laptops for students had, so something like that,
and you just have to stop basically utilizing it. Like, instead of writing something out on paid on I mean, there’s, there’s value to handwriting, don’t get me wrong. But instead of writing something out on paper,
maybe instead, you know, you get a child to type it up, and that will start teaching them touch typing skills. It might take 10 types long, but like it was not teaching them touch typing skills, just see what you can do more on a computer, we play the easiest way. But in saying that don’t spend the entire day on the computer. Like even at our camps that we run, we have times where we’re doing offline activities, we have recess and lunch, whether away from the computer, the most common comment that we get is, can we go back inside and code
and I’m like, No, you have to go find out. Um, but that would probably be my advice.
Yeah, that’s brilliant. And just like, was it Code Academy was but you said as well was that free resource?
Yeah, that’s a free resource arm, it’s great for teachers, because it’s been a higher level. Um, it’s, it’s suitable for older students to start learning with a bit of help that the poem that I find and you know, being in the startup space, you find a lot of people, they’re like, okay, you can’t do stuff in person you have to do online or something like that. But what I found is that with younger children, they really need the in passing support, because coding is hot, and children will give up if you don’t keep helping them and encouraging them along which is that if the teachers Code Academy is a good place to start Yeah, just learn how to build a website and go from there you’d be amazed what you’ll learn that and then just start googling stuff it’s just google everything like how can I integrate technology into my classroom How can I do x y&z
yeah and there’s a million there’s a million companies to do payday in this sort of thing as well. And it’s something that you know if you’re a decision maker at your school or you have you know you have any budget for payday maybe getting teachers to learn these types of skills is something that would be really beneficial for the students because it’s, it is decent, and it’s all well and good to say that, you know, we need to know these skills. But as, as, you know, being you know, a founder of a startup. And as all the listeners know, being teachers who have their businesses, you know, time isn’t always there to do they sort of thing. So try and do it during school and try and get those payday hours and try and learn as a group. Because there’s no point, you know, a teacher learning and trying to part, you know, they, you know, one teacher picking up bits and pieces from Code Academy, and then trying to pass it on. And next thing, you know, the information has been filtered down and filtered down. So, try and do it as a group. Or even if you do it in your own time, you know, try and connect with your colleagues and try and do it together and the benefits you’re going to get. And like you were talking about before, Joshua, the benefits you’re going to get from it, or just so profound for the students.
Yeah, you’re exactly right. And that that’s very well put, um, yeah, during it together does work pretty well. And payday for these sort of things works quite well. But yeah, you really have to know yourself. And like, the mindset should be like, if you’re teaching something even like this, and probably a good shortcut. If you’re teaching something, let’s say it’s fractions, for example, your apartment school teaching the teaching fractions, your normal instinct would be okay, let’s write something up on the board and get it gets to a worksheet or something along those lines. What you should be thinking instead is go, how can I utilize technology to teach this concept and then start google it? It’s like, how can I teach fractions online or teach fractions online?
And you would be amazed at what comes up. And maybe there’s like an online fractions game, which we teach the kids really, really quickly, it’ll be fine. Oh, good game, and there’ll be developing all those skills at the same time. That would probably be a good little tip.
Yeah, I agree. I agree. So Joshua, you’ve been awesome. Thank you so much for joining. Where can the teachers at home? Where can they find you and what you’re doing?
Yeah, so if you want to check out what code spaces doing, the best thing to do would be just Google Code space, one word, or you can go to code space dot education. Or if you’re looking to follow me or anything that I do, the best thing to do would probably be on LinkedIn, go over to LinkedIn and just search up Joshua Brooks is my full name and j with a to a big double Okay, and you’d be able to keep up to date with all the cool stuff that we’re doing in the education space.
Excellent. We’ll have all those in the show notes. Joshua Brooks, thank you so much.
No problem is being pleasure being here, so